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5 Creative Questions with… Hop Dac

Melbourne-based painter Hop Dac is an artist I associate with still life works that share some or all of these qualities: colours gently muted, some loving nod to his Vietnamese heritage - for he came to Australia as a refugee - and a sense of Australian suburbia. Even if he's depicting, say, an everyday bowl of pho and its accompaniments, there's often a feeling of peace, of a warm and contented world.

I connected with Hop over Instagram and he kindly gave me some advice for my still life, 'Some of my best friends', which I yesterday dropped off at the Hornsby Art Prize as it is a finalist. He helped me select among the photo references I had staged and gave me advice on which had the best perspective. He's told me he dials back his colours with lots of white and a little brown. He suggested ways to make my flowers look more flower-like. All in spite of us having never met. I know he places elements in his work by figuring out ideal layouts with paper cutouts and I do this too. His work 'Nomadic Reverie' was among the painting finalists for the National Emerging Art Prize last year. A still life "that could be found in my daughters' bedrooms", it's Barbie-core with a high level of refinement. If this piece is in anyone's daughter's bedroom, they have remarkable taste.

Hop Dac in his studio. Photo by his daughter Margaux

Hop Dac is the ninth in my series of creatives to take five questions.

When my creative process is stuck, I reach for… my running shoes or yoga mat. I find physical activity a good way to jostle something loose. I carry a lot of my problems in my body.

The weirdest thing about being a creative human is… it's the most normal thing to be. I realise now that my struggles to work in day jobs were not because I'm the weirdo but because they were.

The most unusual object in my house is… this doohickey that you press down on an apple that cores and cuts it up at the same time that is a revelation to me but apparently is quite common.

I celebrate my achievements by… having a small get-together with close friends. My family never celebrated achievements, or even acknowledged them, so their importance has been something I've had to learn as an adult.

Something in the world that already exists that I wish I had created is… Henri Rousseau's 'The Sleeping Gypsy'. There is a great bit in the film Red Dragon where Ralph Fiennes is allowed to look at the William Blake watercolour painting 'The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with the Sun' he's obsessed with and he is so struck by it that he has to eat it. That's pretty much how I feel about the Rousseau painting. It's fairly big though so I don't reckon I'd be able to do it in one sitting.

Find Hop Dac's work online and through Boom Gallery.

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